On Tuesday, March 26, Lilly Ledbetter, the namesake for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, spoke at the University of Minnesota, Mankato. Her presentation drew a large crowd of students and the community.
After the presentation, a VIP section was set up and those present were able to purchase her novel, “Grace and Grit” and have it personally signed.
Ledbetter’s journey began during her career at Goodyear Tires in Alabama. Ledbetter was a hardworker who did her job to the best of her ability. In her work locker, she found a note from an unknown coworker that explained she was earning 40 percent less than her male counterparts doing the same exact job as she was.
Ledbetter made a case to point out that after the original law was created to have equal pay, only a raise of 18 cents had been achieved. That original law was passed in 1963 and only a pathetic 18 cents has been achieved.
After some deliberation, Ledbetter took her case to court and in the end, was awarded $3.8 million. Though she was officially awarded the entire $3.8 million, she was only entitled to $300,000. This is because according to the law, she was only basing the case on one issue: gender discrimination. Ledbetter explained that if she was a woman and a minority, she would have been entitled to the entire money awarded to her.
Though this was a small victory, it was not enough for Ledbetter. Her case was taken to the Supreme Court and she lost her case there. The Justices explained their reasoning for this was because she did not go to court within the first 180 days of her job even though she did not know and was not able to prove anything. They also included that they did not want to have the “hundreds of cases that would flood if this was passed,” said Ledbetter. If this is the mentality that the court had, they obviously realized that something was wrong with unequal pay.
Losing the case was not the only travesty at this time. She soon lost the life of her husband, Charles Ledbetter, to cancer. Throughout the entire fight for equality, Charles stood by her side and supported her. And even though the death of her husband was a massive hit to Ledbetter’s life, she knew that she must fight on.
After speaking multiple times on Capitol Hill in D.C., President Obama signed his first Act into law: The Fair Pay Act.
Since that moment, it has been multiple years and we still do not have equal pay between men and women. Women are still paid 40 cents per dollar that men earn. It is even worse for women with children. Women with children earn 77 cents less for every dollar a male earns.
It is quite interesting how people understand this fact and are upset by it, yet there is still not concrete action to cease unequal pay.